Scoliosis: is aesthetics measurable?

When it comes to scoliosis therapy, aesthetics is one of the goals along with a healthy back.

Aesthetic deformity due to scoliosis and its impact on the patient is considered by the members of SOSORT (International Society On Scoliosis Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Treatment) as the most important reason for treating AIS; unfortunately, only a few of scoliosis studies were found in PubMed on this topic. 

But can a goal, apparently so subjective, be measurable in a repeatable way to become objectiveYes,according to the data collected by the study Reliability, repeatability and comparison to normal of a set of new stereophotogrammetric parameters to detect trunk asymmetries, recently published by the Journal of BIOLOGICAL REGULATORS & Homeostatic Agents

“Aesthetic impairment is a crucial issue in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS), but to date no objective measurements are available – states Dr Francesco Negrini, Isico physiatrist – for our research, we used the Formetric®, which we usually use to measure sagittal planes. We have established parameters for evaluating symmetries in patients, such as those of the shoulder blades or hips, to obtain objective data related to the aesthetic aspect. In order to validate this instrument for clinical practice, the first step and aim of this study are to evaluate the repeatability of the parameters measured by surface topography in a group of AIS subjects and to test if they can distinguish healthy subjects from AIS patients to develop an objective tool for deformity evaluation of the trunk in AIS patients. For our evaluations, we used a device for surface topography based on the principles of rasterstereography. This device (Formetric®, Diers Biomedical Solutions) can reconstruct digitally in three dimensions the back of any person”.

The study evaluated 15 selected parameters that could be good predictors of scoliosis’ impact on the patients’ trunk.
“We analysed short-term (30 seconds, 38 subjects) and medium-term (90 minutes, 14 subjects) repeatability of surface topography measures and their diagnostic validity in AIS (74 subjects, 33 AIS patients and 41 healthy subjects) – proceeds Dr Negrini – All examined parameters were highly correlated as far as short, and medium-term repeatability is concerned”. 

When it comes to aesthetics we cannot stop at Cobb degrees alone, believing that there is no objective measure: “Symmetries can be measured repetitively, as we did in our study – concludes Dr Negrini – so we can offer an objective measurement of aesthetics in patients with idiopathic scoliosis. The surface topography showed good repeatability. Moreover, some of its parameters are correlated with scoliosis, showing that it could very well evaluate deformity due to this pathology. Thanks to these findings, it will be possible to develop a tool that can objectively evaluate aesthetics in AIS patients.”.

A Brace classification study

The study Brace Classification Study Group (BCSG): part one – definitions and atlas, published by Scoliosis and Disorders,  represents the first part of the SOSORT consensus in addressing the definitions and providing a visual atlas of bracing.
Prof. Stefano Negrini, Scientific Director of Isico, is one of the authors who belong to a panel of professionals named the Brace Classification Study Group
Prof. Negrini explains: “The current increase in types of scoliosis braces defined by a surname or a town makes scientific classification essential. Currently, it is a challenge to compare braces and specify the indications of each brace. A precise definition of the characteristics of current braces is needed“. 
As such, the International Society for Scoliosis Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT) mandated the Brace Classification Study Group (BCSG) to address the pertinent terminology and brace classification.
The BCSG introduced several pertinent domains to characterize bracing systems.
The domains are defined to allow for analysis of each brace system. The BCSG has reached a consensus on 139 terms related to bracing and has provided over 120 figures to serve as an atlas for educational purposes. 
During the annual meeting of the International Society for Scoliosis Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT) in Athens in 2008, Prof. Negrini presented a new classification under the acronym BRACE MAP.
BRACE MAP derives from the following terms: Building, Rigidity, Anatomical classification, Construction of the Envelope, Mechanism of action, and Plane of action. Each item was composed of two to seven classificatory elements defined using one or two letters in order to refer specifically to the characteristics of the brace throughout the classification.  
“A visual atlas of various brace types is provided – ends prof. Negrini – This is the first clinical terminology tool for bracing related to scoliosis based on the current scientific evidence and formal multidisciplinary consensus”.

And the Sosort Award winner is… Isico!

At the International Sosort Meeting in June, this year held for the first time ever entirely online, Isico recorded another great success.

Dr Sabrina Donzelli, Isico physiatrist, won the Sosort Award, the event’s top prize, for her research entitled: “Predicting final results of Brace Treatment of Adolescents with Idiopathic Scoliosis: First Out-of-Brace are Better than In-Brace-radiographs”. Her study was chosen over the work of 7 other researchers in the running for the award.

Among eight studies selected as oral presentations, the Scientific Committee picked out, as the two finalists, Dr Donzelli’s research study and a study on the genetics of scoliosis by the Montreal-based research group led by Prof A Moreau. “After the initial selection we were asked to submit a complete article to be entered for the Sosort Award” explains Dr Donzelli. “The prize, for the winning study, is a sum of money allowing it to be published in any magazine, as an open-access article, in other words in a format accessible, free of charge, to anyone who might be interested in reading it”.

The other studies running for the award included a long-term follow up of patients with scoliosis, presented by Dr AG Aulisa, a cost analysis of conservative versus surgical treatment, and two studies on Scolioscan©, the ultrasound equipment present as well at Isico’s Milan clinic. 

“Our winning research underlines how important patients’ first out-of-brace radiographs are for predicting the results at the end of their course of treatment,” Dr Donzelli goes on. “The accuracy of the model we developed and tested, is the key factor that won us this prestigious award, which will allow us to publish our work in the coming months.” 

In the course of the online meeting, several of our specialists gave presentations: Alessandra Negrini, Isico physiotherapist, asked “Is swimming helpful or harmful in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis?”, Dr Fabio Zaina, Isico physiatrist, gave a presentation entitled “ISYQOL, a Rasch consistent tool for quality of life evaluation in scoliosis patients during adulthood: comparison with the gold standard”, while our director of physiotherapy, Michele Romano, spoke about “The effect of dance performance on idiopathic scoliosis progression in adolescents”.

This is the second year running that Isico has not only been among the finalists but also gone on to win the award. 

In 2019, Isico also won an award with a study concerning scoliosis and sport. “The quality of our research has increased not only as a result of our acquisition of increasingly high-level methodological skills, but also thanks to the growing availability of systematically collected data,” explains Dr Donzelli. “In recent years, the data we routinely collect from patients visiting our facilities have allowed us to develop so-called predictive models. In other words, we consider the characteristics of large groups of patients to try and understand whether they allow us to predict their final results, or whether certain risk factors are more important to consider than others when deciding what type of therapy to prescribe. Our growing clinical and research expertise has led to international collaborations. Many others now look to us to provide expert support. We are also seeing an increase in our collaborations with international partners that want to analyse and compare their clinical and radiographic data with our database”.

Scoliosis: dance and swimming. Yes or no?

Is there any particular sport, rather than others, that individuals with scoliosis should choose? 

Two Isico studies have addressed this question, and in so doing they have dispelled the misconception that dance and swimming have a negative impact on scoliosis curves.

The studies in question will be presented in Melbourne, Australia, at the next SOSORT meeting, this year being held from April 27th to May 1st, 2020, during Spine Week.
As their titles show, these studies — Is swimming helpful or harmful in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis? and The effect of dance on idiopathic scoliosis progression in adolescents — explore the relationship between scoliosis and two types of physical activity: swimming and dance. 

Swimming and scoliosis

A few years ago, a previous Isico study, Swimming and spinal deformities: a cross-sectional study, exploded another myth.
It showed that swimming has no therapeutic benefit; in fact, the swimmers presented greater asymmetry and hyperkyphosis than the individuals who did not swim.
On this basis, it was concluded that swimming has a negative impact on posture and consequently is not an effective form of prevention. 

The aim of our latest study on swimming was to verify the safety of recreational versus competitive swimming in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis. 

Of 780 patients fulfilling the inclusion criteria, 529 (68%, 420 females, age 12.3 ± 1.3, 16.0 ± 3.6 Cobb degrees) regularly performed sports activities. 63 (12%) were swimmers, and 15 of these were competitive swimmers. 

“Compared with our 2013 study, in this latest research we did not consider healthy subjects” says Alessandra Negrini, Isico physiotherapist.
“We studied a sample of subjects with mild scoliosis (10-25°, mean Cobb angle 16°), not being treated with braces, and therefore only a clinical population. Our aim was to evaluate, on the basis of radiological findings at 12 months, the effect of swimming in individuals who already have a diagnosis of scoliosis and are going through a growth spurt (Risser-0-2, over 10 years of age). The effect of swimming was found to be comparable to that of other sports, and it was also similar in the competitive and the non-competitive swimmers. Age and hump size were the only factors found to influence the risk of worsening. These findings show that there is no reason to demonise swimming, be it recreational or competitive”.
In other words, they show that swimming is no better or worse than other sports.

Dance and scoliosis

Many spine specialists advise their idiopathic scoliosis (IS) patients to stop dancing on account of the risks (increased spinal mobility and flat back) that are potentially associated with the movements typically involved in this form of physical activity.
“The current literature reports a higher prevalence of scoliosis in subjects who practice dance than in their peers who do not dance” says Michele Romano, director of physiotherapy at Isico. ”In this research, we set out to assess the impact, in terms of the progression of idiopathic scoliosis, of dance compared with other sports in a group of adolescents (545 consecutive scoliosis patients)”.

The patients were divided into two groups: a Sport Activity group (SA – 461 participants), whose members performed any kind of sport, and a group of dancers, the Dance Activity group (DA – 84 patients).

“According to the results, the dancers showed a similar risk of progression as the patients performing other types of sport” Romano concluded. “The small sample size is one limit of the study; larger studies are needed in order to verify the effect of practising dance”.

Scoliosis: there is no particular sport that is more recommended than others 

So, what conclusions can be drawn from the two studies? According to the two Isico specialists, at present there is no evidence to suggest that any particular sport should be preferred over others, or that there is any sport that people with scoliosis should avoid.
Given that neither swimming nor dance, two of the activities most often discouraged for those affected by scoliosis, showed negative effects when compared with other sports, it seems unlikely that other types of sport might have a negative impact.
“The scientific evidence tells us that sport is good for us, and while it may not constitute a treatment as such (unlike specific exercises), it may have a positive effect, supporting the improvements recorded by those with scoliosis” says Alessandra Negrini, “as already shown by my study Effect of sport activity added to full-time bracing in 785 Risser 0-2 adolescents with high degree idiopathic scoliosis (which won the Sosort Award 2019). We at Isico have always believed that it is crucial for our patients to carry on doing sport, especially since their treatment can already be an uphill battle for them. In short, being able to carry on doing sport, something many of these youngsters are passionate about, can make it easier for them to accept the treatment.»